"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Julia Child

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

cinnamon toasted and cocoa dusted almonds

I snack. A lot. This past summer, I made homemade nut butter to spice up my afternoon apple snack. But pre-slicing an apple and carrying along a container of nut butter isn't always feasible. Inspired by Nuts 4 Nuts after a recent trip to the farmers market, I've been snacking my way through these nuggets of cinnamon, sugar, chocolate goodness. And, as a vegetarian, this protein filled snack obsession is head and shoulders above what was an ugly, ugly holiday pecan/peanut/mixed nut brittle overindulgence. Or, at least that's what I'm telling myself. :)

Yield: 7 cups
250 calories per 1/4 cup (cinnamon)
225 calories per 1/4 cup (cocoa)
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes

the cinnamon almonds
4 cups raw almonds
2 whole egg whites (or 6 tablespoons liquid egg whites)
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

the cocoa dusted almonds
3 cups raw almonds
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla (if you want to get fancy, use a vanilla bean)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

the cinnamon almonds 
1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until very foamy.

2. Add in the vanilla and whisk until foamy.

3. Add in the sugars, salt, and cinnamon, whisking until well combined.

4. Add in the almonds, stirring well to coat.

5. Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until very crisp, about 45-50 minutes. You'll want to stir the almonds halfway through to spread around the cinnamon mixture and encourage, for lack of a better word, clumping.

 6. Place the parchment paper on a wire rack to cool.

the cocoa dusted almonds
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the agave nectar, vanilla, and sugar. Warm on very low heat.

2. While the mixture is warming, combine the cocoa powder and sea salt in a gallon Ziplock bag.

3. Stir the agave mixture to ensure the ingredients are well mixed and pour in the almonds.

4. Warm the almonds, stirring frequently to coat, for about 3-5 minutes. You'll notice a "hissing" noise as air and fat escape the almond skin.

5. Pour the almonds into your prepared Ziplock bag, seal, and shake well to coat.  (I totally had a muddy buddies flashback.)

6. Pour the almonds out onto a wire rack that's been covered with parchment paper to cool.

Original recipes found here and here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

green chile spoon bread

Spoonbread. Some might consider it soggy cornbread, others a casserole gone bad. I, however, think it is delicious. Super easy to make, spoonbread can be a great "blank canvas" for an imaginative flavor profile. While I went for a southwestern flair,I've seen ingredients that run the gamete from pumpkin to swiss cheese to roasted red peppers to chives. Live it up!

Yield: One 9 by 13 pan
220 calories per serving, if divided into 16 portions
Active time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal or polenta
1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes (I wanted the spoonbread to be a little more creamy, but you can easily cut this this ingredients out and simply use 1 cup of cornmeal.)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1¼ cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg

1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well to combine.

2. Pour into a a 9 by 13 pan.

3. Bake at 375 until golden brown, until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.

Original recipe found here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

rosemary asiago slow cooker bread

For many of us, the "artic vortex" ushered in frigid weather. Homemade soup and a warm slice of bread are great ways to combat the bone-chilling cold. But, if like me, you're having a hard time getting your dough to proof in the extreme cold, this slow cooker method is a great way to level the playing field. In the extreme heart of summer (dare to dream), this method will help keep your house cool.

You'll enjoy this recipe if you're a fan of the unlimited bread served at Macaroni Grill. Luckily, it isn't nearly as salty, and the fresh rosemary, asiago, and pepper help create an upcycled flavor profile.

Yield: 1 large loaf
3,390 calories per loaf
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 345 minutes

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup low fat buttermilk, lukewarm
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup grated asiago cheese (or a semi-hard cheese or your choosing)
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar (I used turbinado)
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground pepper

1. In 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, combine the lukewarm milk, water, yeast and a pinch of sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes. Be sure not to over warm the milk because if the liquid is too hot, the yeast will die and your bread won't rise.

2. In your stand mixer bowl, except for the cheese, combine the remaining ingredients and "stir" until a shaggy dough forms.

3. Add the cheese and knead, on a speed of 2, until a cohesive dough forms, about 5 minutes. If your dough seems dry, add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time. This dough is very tight, so towards the end my mixer had some problems kneading the mass. If you have a 225, 250 or 325 watt mixer, I recommend halving the recipe.

4a. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a parchment lined slow cooker.

Or option b, which may be unnecessary as the low temperature, roughly 200 degrees, of the slow cooker allows the bread to proof as it bakes. But, in researching different slow cooker recipes, I noticed that the loaves were a little flat, so I added in this step so the gluten could get moving. If you go with option b, I would half the recipe because as the bread begins to bake, it may expand beyond the capacity of your slow cooker. I opted to tent it with aluminum foil (placing a layer of parchment paper on the bread) to get an humongous sized loaf. Go big or go home, right?

4b. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, cover with a towel, and set aside for 90 minutes. Place the ball into a parchment lined slow cooker.

5. Turn the slow cooker to highest heat setting and bake until the internal temperature reaches 190-200 degrees. This will take about 3-4 hours given the size of this recipe. You'll want to begin checking the internal temperature of the bread at after 2 hours have elapsed, in about 30 minute increments. (A 1 lb recipe would take about 2 hours.)

after about 1 hour

the "solution"

6. Brush with an egg wash, coarse kosher salt, and brown under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, just enough to give your bread a nice crust.

Original recipes found here and here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

blueberry nut oatmeal bars

I've been on a kind bar kick. Okay, more like an Amazon subscribe and save bender. While the bars have a fairly short shelf life, hopefully indicative of fresh(ish) ingredients and processing, I endeavored to find a homemade version. This isn't it.  But, these bar do straddle a crumble and granola bar. This recipe provides an easy, lower fat and calorie option for those of us who aren't adhering to a (strict) gluten free vegan diet. :) Fair warning: The bars aren't tremendously sweet and the nuts take on a different consistency as a result of absorbing liquid, maybe because I took the lazy way out and used frozen blueberries.  Using fresh or dried would most likely prevent the boiled peanut effect to which some of the chopped nuts fell victim and increasing the sugar or changing it white would help with sweetness.

Yield: 1 pan of bars
125 calories per bar, if cut into 16
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

3 cups oats
1 ¼ cup mixed nuts
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk 
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. In your food processor, chop the nuts.

3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well until combined.

4. Pour mixture into a baking dish that’s been generously sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

5. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool completely then cut into squares.

Original recipe found here.